The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 441 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the program we’re going to be talking about readers, both the friends you ask to look at your script, and the folks who are paid to analyze scripts. We’ll be talking about unions and state law and coverage, plus how to gently say the script is garbage and this person should maybe not write screenplays.
Craig: [laughs] Is it like that? You just say, softly, your script is garbage and you should maybe not write screenplays.
John: [laughs] In our bonus segment for Premium members Craig and I will talk about baldness.
John: Yeah. We know a little something about that.
Craig: Yeah. You know, we’re experts.
John: We are experts. Before any of that starts, we have big news. Craig, you have a new show.
Craig: I got a new show. So, this is something that I honestly never thought that I would be able to work on because it’s sort of the great white whale of videogame adaptation possibilities. It’s a game called The Last of Us. It is I think 2013 was when it came out I believe. It is my favorite videogame. And I’ve played them all. And it is my favorite specifically because it is beautiful. The game play itself is quite good, but not the point. The point is that the story is remarkable, the characters are remarkable. It’s just – it made me feel things. And typically videogames don’t make me feel things as much as they engage me and delight me.
So, it turned out that Neil Druckmann who is the creative director of The Last of Us and creative director over at Naughty Dog which is the same game studio that does Uncharted, among other things, was a Chernobyl fan and Shannon Woodward, our mutual friend who worked as an actor on The Last of Us 2 which is coming out in May made an introduction like a little matchmaker would. And, you know, the rest is history.
John: Aw. And now you’re walking down the aisle at HBO.
Craig: Walking down the aisle of HBO. So it was going to be a movie for a long time, so Neil was working on it as a movie for one of Sony’s divisions. And, you know, my feeling was you can’t make a movie out of this thing. It has to be a show. It needs length. It is about the development of a relationship over the course of a long journey and so it has to be a television show and that’s that. And that’s the way I see it. And happily Neil agreed and HBO is delighted and so here we are.
So, we can’t start on it right away because they’re still finishing up the second game. But pretty soon we’re going to get, I mean, we’ve been talking about it for months and coming up with little plans and things. But we’re going to dig in in full, full earnest pretty soon, just as soon as they kind of wrap up their final work-work on the sequel. And so hopefully more exciting news to come on that front, because it’s something we’re both motivated to see on TV.
John: Great. So, distant time horizon for it. But I actually like having things that are going to be great and in the future because it gives me hope on those dark days when things look kind of grim. I know that there will be a Last of Us TV show at some point. I know Beyoncé is going to drop a new album for us at some point. So, the things that I don’t have in front of me but I can look forward to sometimes is all I need to get through the day.
Craig: I never thought that Last of Us would be a series, so I’m thrilled that there’s a second one. But there are certain videogame franchises you know are series, so I’ve started to view my adult life as being marked by Elder Scrolls releases.
John: [laughs] Yes.
Craig: And it’s been nine years.
John: My daughter just started playing Skyrim. It’s so fascinating to watch her go back and do all that stuff again.
Craig: Glorious stuff. And they are going to make Elder Scrolls VI, but not for a while. So we’re going to still be in a waiting pattern on there. But Last of Us 2, that will be a big one coming out in May. So, looking forward to it.
John: Hooray. We’ve got so much follow up. Craig, this is going to be a big reading aloud episode where we’re reading stuff that people wrote in. I’ll take this first one. Writing about Episode 439, Sarah wrote in to say, “I wanted to say how much I enjoyed your episode on general meetings. As a TV writer visiting LA from London it was a surreal, yet comforting experience to listen to the episode while driving around on my very own water bottle tour. I’ve also add a tip LA residents might not have considered. If you are a visitor from a country that doesn’t have such clement weather as LA, keep sunscreen in your car and wear it. If you’re going to a big studio you can be expected to park up to half a mile away in direct sunlight and if you’re not used to it that walk can be brutal.
“My car got blocked in by a valet at Disney while I was in a meeting and in the 20 minutes of jittering time it took to free my car I basically burst into flames. It’s also worth noting to out-of-towners that you really don’t have to drive in LA anymore. That used to be the case but no longer thanks to Uber and Lyft. Car share apps remove the stress of studio parking, although on the plus side renting a car does give you somewhere to live between meetings, kind of like your own mobile office.”
Craig: That’s great advice from Sarah. And certainly anyone from England or Ireland really needs to prepare for the sun out here. It can be pretty oppressive. And that will tie into our bonus episode as well.
John: On baldness, absolutely. I’m a person who keeps a hat in the car at all times just in case I am stuck somewhere in that bright daylight. Do you want to take this next email about valets?
Craig: Yeah, sure. So, we did talk about valets. This was a kind of good overall LA episode. And Sven from Portugal, which is, you know, confusing, because that’s a Swedish name, but he’s from Portugal. I love it. Maybe he is Swedish and he just lives in Portugal. Either way, Sven from Portugal writes, “Generally at Warners valet is done by Town Park. The studio hires Town Park and Town Park pays their drivers. I’ve chatted with the drivers on a few occasions. They are not paid well. They are allowed to accept tips. They don’t expect it because on the lot don’t generally tip them. They usually get their tips during fancy pants events elsewhere. So if you’re ever visiting the WB lot and someone in a red shirt parks your car, it would be kind to throw them a few dollars extra.”
And I certainly agree with that.
John: Yeah, I agree with that, too. And thanks Sven for telling me because especially at Warners I didn’t know. And so now I will throw those folks some extra money.
Craig: It’s not common, but if you are meeting with certain people at Universal you may be asked to–
John: Yeah, I remember that, too.
Craig: Swing your car over to I think they’re called Blue Wave valet. So, yep, tip.
John: Tip. Back to Episode 438, regarding the brief mention of a child playing with stick and hoop like an impoverished turn of the century child, Simon wrote in to say, “It’s shockingly fun.”
Craig: No it’s not.
John: “I got a chance to try it at a Victorian-themed picnic in Greenwood Cemetery and I’m still mad about how fun it was. Stick and hoop for life.”
Craig: Simon, it’s just too hipster for words. I can’t handle it. A Victorian-themed picnic in Greenwood. So if you’re wondering where Greenwood Cemetery is, dear listeners, it’s in Brooklyn. Of course it is. So, that’s where hipsters go to die now, I guess. Or rather play hoop and stick at a Victorian-themed picnic. Your handlebar mustache is already in my eyeball, Simon. I love you, but no.
John: I can only envision a sepia-tone flashback of C. Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons remembering his childhood, where he still looks like an old man. It’s fantastic that stick and hoop. Yes, the best.
Craig: Stick and hoop. Yes, I’m sure you were mad. I’m sure you’re still angry about how much fun it was. If you’re still angry about it, Simon, why don’t you take your lumberjack self out into the street over there in Park Slope and start hoop-sticking some more.
John: Back in Episode 431 we answered a question about incorporating improv into your script. [Uval] wrote in to say, “Just a quick note about Rebecca’s question that left you guys without a clear answer. This writing method she describes is very similar to the way Mike Leigh famously writes his films. He doesn’t even begin with an outline. He always has sole writing credit on those.” And as we were trying to answer the question I was trying to think of Mike Leigh’s name and I could not remember his name. But, yes, that is the way he sort of does it. He assembles his actors and they figure out what the movie is as he’s working with them.
So, yes, that is true. But also Rebecca herself wrote in with some follow up. Craig, do you want to take the follow up from Rebecca?
Craig: Sure. Rebecca said, “Thanks for taking my question. I wanted to follow up with more clarity I got from the WGA. I emailed the credits department and ended up chatting with someone on the phone for a good 20 minutes. As long as my actors’ contracts/agreements state that we will develop the script together through improv it’s OK and I can fairly credit them with ‘dialogue improvised by.’ If I credit them with ‘written by’ either guild writer actors get in trouble for taking non-union writing work, or I have to use WGA contracts which are financially impossible when you’re living the dream/working retail.” So, should I translate that a little bit for the folks at home?
Craig: Basically there’s this credit “dialogue improvised by” which you can award for free. It confers nothing beyond just the credit. There’s no residuals attached to it. There’s no separated rights. But “written by” is a writing-writing credit. Right? So at that point either they’re not working under a WGA contract, which means everybody is in trouble, or you have to actually hire them under a WGA contract. That means residuals. That means minimum payments. That means pension and health contributions. For a lot of people as Rebecca points out that’s going to be too much.
John: I want to commend Rebecca for taking initiative to just reach out to the WGA and figure out how do I do this properly. Great. To the WGA for giving her an answer and actually talking with her for 20 minutes about it. And what they came back with does make sense, I think, for everybody. First off that you’re being upfront about this is the process we’re going to go through and this is the credit that we’re going to agree upon if we actually make this thing. It’s just such a smart way to approach it from the start so everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into at the very start.
Craig: And I would like to also thank the guild credits department. As grouchy as I am about the union and I get grouchier by the day these days, I am a huge fan and longstanding fan of the credits department. They work very, very hard. A lot of them are attorneys. They have mastered a very complicated system and they have to sometimes litigate these disputes between writers which is really difficult to do. So, hat’s off to them. They work very, very hard under a brutal caseload and every day is a crushing deadline. So, hat’s off to the credits department at the guild.
John: And so often the credits department has to deal with crisis situations kind of after the fact, where like stuff was done in a really crazy way and then they have to sort it out. So, in some ways I’m sure they appreciate the call in advance saying like, hey, this is a thing I’m thinking about doing, how do I make it not be crazy. That’s just wonderful for them.
Craig: If only the studios had the same concerns.
John: Yes. They don’t.
John: We have talked often on the show recently about assistant pay. I want to talk through some sort of next steps and sort of what’s been happening. So, last night Megana and I sat down with the #PayUpHollywood folks to talk through what’s been going on and what are the next few things that we should be doing and announcing and working on. So, there’s two things that Megana and I are going to be working on and we could use some listener help.
So, a few weeks back I published an Assistant’s Advice to Showrunners Guide. We talked about it on the podcast which is basically assistants recommending things for showrunners to do to make writing rooms work better and assistant’s lives better in the writing staff. We need to do a kind of thing like that but not just for writer’s room assistants, but for sort of all industry assistants in general. So, assistants who are working at agencies, working at studios, working at production companies. There’s a lot of general advice that assistants could give to bosses to help them use assistants better and make the relationship work better.
So, we’d love you to write in to email@example.com with what are some bullet point pieces of advice you’d like to give to bosses in the entertainment industry so that they can actually have the best, most productive working relationships with their assistants. So that’s the first thing.
The second thing is we’d like to come out with a guide for new assistants. Sort of a 101 like, OK, you are an assistant, here are some things to be thinking about as you’re going into it. But with also a bit of nuance about how to politely decline things, what’s actually normal. This is a list of things that are classic things that assistants can do. These are problematic things and sort of how to tell the difference between those two things.
So if you are an assistant working in Hollywood right now and would like to write in with like normal, not normal, or sort of 101 advice we’d like to take that as well. So we’d like to be able to put out PDFs like that other PDF that are sort of more general purpose that are not so specifically tailored to assistants working in writers rooms.
Craig: This is great. It seems to me that you and I for a very long time have been working on one large meta project, even though it’s been divided up into lots of tiny projects, and the meta project is having people learn about each other. Because in this business everything is designed to compartmentalize everyone. We talk about networking all the time, but networking has always been defined as talk to people to try and get yourself a job, or move yourself ahead. It’s about personal ambition. But what we never seem to be able to talk about together as a community is how we’re paid, how we’re treated, what makes us upset, what makes us happy.
So, we’ve been doing this for a long time for writers. It’s nice that we’re also starting to do it for assistants. I think that’s great. And who knows? Maybe we’ll extend it to, well, it’s a topic that’s coming up.
John: It is, yeah.
Craig: We do have a nice thing that was sent in just covering the efforts we’ve been making on assistants’ pay. And so this came through to Megana and here’s what we got. “I just wanted to say thank you and let you know the work you’re doing has had a tangible effect on my life. I’m a writer’s PA and today my showrunner and EP sat me down and asked me specifically if I had ever had to pay for anything myself and to let them know immediately if I ever felt like I was being asked for something unfair. They both said neither had ever considered that a PA would have to front money themselves or that a studio would take money out of a PA’s salary if the room went over budget for lunch.
“Additionally, my EP said she assumed that I would come to her if I felt that I was being put in an unfair situation. But that she has realized because of #PayUpHollywood that I or any PA might not feel comfortable coming forward and that it’s on her to make it clear that she would have my back, not on me or any assistant to ask. She straight up said she would have never thought to say this to me without Scriptnotes, so I just wanted to say thank you and let you know that you have at least influenced one room positively.”
John: Aw, that’s great to hear.
Craig: That is great to hear. I mean, considering that I’m not paid for this job. [laughs] Wait, when are we going to do like #PayUpJohn?
John: [laughs] That’s right. Where Craig finally gets all the back checks he’s owed for Scriptnotes over the years. All those t-shirts sold and subscriptions. Yeah.
Craig: Are we going to have a town hall where it’s just me and you?
John: That’s what it is.
Craig: You on a stage and me in the audience. And then you ask does anyone have any questions. And I slowly make my way to the microphone.
John: Who is the Tulsi Gabbard on that debate stage is my question? Who is the person who gets a tiny bit of camera time over there on the edge?
Craig: Oh, Tulsi. She’s still in it. Still running, I believe.
John: Still running. Yeah.
Craig: She’s got a dream.
John: She’s finding her light.
Craig: [laughs] Well, anyway, that was a great – thank you for writing that in. I mean, it truly does make us feel very, very good because sometimes, you know, you do these things, you have no idea if they are really are making a tangible, practical difference in human beings’ lives. So this was lovely to hear. Thank you.
John: Absolutely. And we’d love to be able to hear those kinds of stories from people outside of writers’ rooms. So, we’ve had some impact on agencies and we’ve seen some small changes happening in agencies, which is great. We’d love to see more of it. I think the goal at least from our little narrow perspective is to make sure more companies that are not necessarily writer focused are really looking at their assistants and looking at the needs of the assistants and how to treat them better. So it’s both payment and practices. And you sort of can’t disentangle those two. So these next documents will be about practices. There’s going to be some stuff coming up pretty soon about payment and sort of what we’ve found in terms of really what an industry minimum wage needs to look like in order for this to be a sustainable business.
Craig: But part of what we’re doing I guess is maybe expanding our crusade to another front?
John: Maybe to another front. Let’s get to our main topic today which is readers. And so to set the table here a bit, this is a show about writing and so obviously everything we write is intended to be read by somebody. Sometimes you’re looking for a friend to give that friendly read and give you advice and give you some notes. And sometimes you’re faced with a gatekeeper who is basically the barrier between you getting to that next stage is this reader who is in the way.
And all of us also are readers ourselves, because we’re always reading each other’s scripts. And some of us read other people’s scripts for our job. That’s how I used to make my living. So, I really want to talk about this on two tracks. First is how to be a good reader in terms of like that friendly read of scripts. And we’ve talked some of this before on the show.
John: But then didn’t really talk about that professional reader job which we really haven’t ever gotten into on the podcast before.
Craig: Yeah. A lot of people don’t know that there are longstanding readers that work at specific studios. I didn’t know until, well, about five, six years ago when I discovered that there were kind of a set group of readers at Universal because my executive said, “Good news. Our toughest reader liked your drafts.” It’s like, wait, who? Your toughest what now? Because dumb-dumb over here assumed that the people whose job title was, you know, creative executive or development executive were the people doing the reading and doing the notes. No.
John: Not always.
John: And so I want to disentangle a little bit, we talked about notes before and people should go back and listen to Notes on Notes, which is where we sat down with development executives to talk about the notes they give us and how to give us notes that really will positively influence the next draft.
But a reader classically isn’t necessarily that person. So, if we talk about the friendly reader, then yes. You go to that friendly reader – if I’m sending Craig my script I want his feedback and I want to know how do I make this script better. But that’s not actually the job of most professional readers. They really are more the job of like this is what’s not working, or this is why we should consider this or not consider this project.
A lot of times professional readers just like some piece of material comes into the company, it is given to the reader saying like what is this, give me a synopsis, give me your comments so I don’t have to read this thing, or at least I don’t have to read this thing very carefully. So, let’s talk about sort of what that job is, which I can tell you about because this is how I made my living for years.
Craig: You did it.
John: So when I was a student at USC for film school I had a class with Laura Ziskin. Laura Ziskin is a legendary producer. She passed away a few years ago. And that first class I had with her was on development and really about how to read screenplays and how to write coverage. Coverage is like a book report on a screenplay. It has a very standardized cover page. Each company does their cover page a little bit differently. But it’s like a sheet that lists the writer, who was this submitted to, the dates, the main characters’ names, and sort of a scorecard of like how characterization was, how dialogue was, plot stuff. And recommend or not recommend both as a writer and as the screenplay itself.
The second page of that is generally the synopsis. Synopsis is one or two pages and it’s just paragraph form talking through the story. The third page is comments, analysis. This is like really what you thought of it. It’s the review of the screenplay.
So, I learned how to do this in Ziskin’s class. I wrote up little sample things. Some of our first assignments was writing up coverage. And I was pretty good at it. I’m pretty good at being able to put words together in a way that make sense. So, I was able to take that sample coverage to get an internship at a place called Prelude Pictures. It was a tiny little production company over at the Paramount lot. I didn’t know whatever happened to them but I Googled them yesterday and it turns out they did produce a bunch of movies that I wasn’t aware they actually produced. But at the time they were an aspiring little production company.
Craig: Prelude Pictures?
John: Prelude Pictures.
Craig: Prelude to bankruptcy?
John: No, so Prelude, my understanding is that their money came from Little Caesar’s Pizza. So I think it was Little Caesar’s Pizza money and this was at the time when if somebody just had some money and wanted to get in the movie business they might make a deal with Paramount saying like, “Hey, I want to invest in your movies,” and they would get their office. That still kind of happens now, but it’s less common than it used to be.
John: They were an aspiring production company. And so I would drive over there once or twice a week. I’d pick up two scripts, take them home, read them, write up coverage, and come back in. This is pre-Internet. So I would literally print out and drive the coverage back in. Sit there while they read it and then get new scripts.
I was an unpaid intern for probably three months doing this. That was kind of standard for those times. But I got good enough at it that Laura Ziskin’s development executive said like, “Oh, you know what? I think I can get you a job writing coverage at Tristar.” So then I became an official reader over at Tristar.
There I was getting originally $50 a script. Then it became $65 a script. And that was my fulltime job. I would pick up two scripts in the morning, read them, either bring them back in that same day or the next day with the printed coverage and pick up new scripts. So I was reading 10 to 12 scripts a week. And writing up these reports. It kind of burned a whole in my brain. But it was really good experience. I read 112 scripts in that time.
It definitely gave me a sense of what I liked in screenplays and what I didn’t like in screenplays. And so we always recommend that people read screenplays that they love. But in some ways reading screenplays that you don’t love and having to read them very carefully does teach you about your taste and sort of things you never want to do on the page.
Craig: There’s a phenomenon that, I mean, for lack of a better phrase I’ll call it learning with your fingers, where just by typing out thoughts, your thoughts take on a more rigorous structure. And your mind starts to think of different things. If you just read a script without any responsibility for describing your feelings about it you may just think it stank. Here’s why. It was boring. You start to analyze it and suddenly you begin to see the matrix. And that is a very valuable skill. Reading scripts is a very important thing. But I actually think that writing out what you feel about them and why things worked and didn’t work, well, think with your fingers will help contribute to your growth.
John: It definitely helped me a lot. And I’m going to put links in the show notes to two bits of coverage I wrote during that time. These were both for Ziskin’s class. I think technically the coverage I wrote for other folks they still own the coverage, but these were for Ziskin’s class so I feel good about them.
One was I read Quentin Tarantino’s script for Natural Born Killers which was amazing. And so if you read the coverage for it it’s like I say this is genuinely amazing. And then two years later I got to write the novelization of Natural Born Killers, so it was a good bit of synchronicity there that I’d already read it and covered it.
And then another script called Sex in the ‘90s which was just a script that people liked that was in the library. So I checked it out and I read it and wrote up coverage on it. And so just to give you a sense of what coverage looks like. I took the top sheets off, but you can see what the actual synopsis and analysis looks like.
The reason why writing coverage is hard is so often as a reader you’re trying to synopsize this screenplay and make the story make sense in paragraph from in ways it kind of necessarily wouldn’t make sense. There were so many times I was reading screenplays that were just terrible where there was no coherent story, and yet I needed to be able to put paragraphs and sentences together that actually made sense to a person reading it so that they could understand beat by beat what was kind of happening.
But then in the comments I could just like actually speak clearly about sort of like this is why this is not working.
Craig: One of the big, well, I don’t know if it’s a secret, it’s just something fairly unspoken, is that one of the reasons it’s so important for a reader to be able to summarize the story in a way that is coherent for the person that has asked for this coverage is because that person is not going to read the script. But they are at some point going to have to sound like they did. So they’re going to need to talk to that writer and explain why they’re passing and make reference to a story they have not read. But they’ve read the coverage. So it actually is really important that the summary be accurate and coherent.
John: Yeah. And the ability to make that summary accurate and coherent is writing. I mean, that’s the underlying thing of all of this is like it is writing to do that stuff. It’s a little bit more journalistic writing than sort of screenplay writing, but you have to have the ability to string words together in a pleasing way in order for a person to actually read through what you’ve just written. And it’s exhausting mental work to do it. And I found it very hard to do a lot of my own writing while I was doing a lot of coverage of other people’s screenplays because you still have to do all of the mental work of stringing words together and being able to picture the movie that they’re trying to create on the page.
In many ways I found myself sort of praying that I wouldn’t get a good script on certain days because I knew I didn’t have the time to actually enjoy something and to sort of savor something. I needed to sort of keep flipping pages and getting the gist of it so that I could write that synopsis and then write the analysis. It’s not an easy job at all.
Craig: Well, it’s important to remember what the ultimate purpose of this job is. Nick writes in and he says, “The biggest misconception I had and I think a lot of writers have is thinking that the readers are trying to help you or your script. This is not in fact their job. When I got my first studio coverage back on a script I naively thought the reader might have suggestions for any of the flaws they found. Nope. Because fixing ain’t their job. Their job is to find scripts that their boss will like. What that is depends on the boss. The goal isn’t to find the best written scripts or the most talented writers, because if the reader keeps recommending their boss read stuff over the weekend that their boss doesn’t like their boss will get a new reader.”
John: Ugh, Nick is correct.
John: And so I would say in my time at Tristar out of 112 scripts I recommended two and I got called to the mat for both of those recommendations. And for basically like we would never make this movie or that wasn’t worth my time. And so there were other times where I would recommend like this is a good writer. You won’t want to make the script but this is a good writer. But in terms of like a, hey, you should read this thing and consider this as a movie, both of them were strikeouts.
So it really is a gatekeeper function. And here is where this conversation intersects with our #PayUpHollywood discussion is that these are entry level jobs and so often the people who are writing this coverage are assistants. They are people who are doing other jobs on top of things. And they are not being well paid for this at all. And yet there’s also a union that represents readers and story analysts at certain places. And that was actually the email that kicked this all off.
So, Hilary wrote in to say, “I just found out that script reader/story analyst is actually a union job covered by MPEG, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, with decent minimum pay rates. So given that, does anybody know why pretty much the only people doing this work in Hollywood are interns, PAs, and office assistants whose primary duties are totally unrelated and often end up doing coverage work in off hours for free despite only earning minimum wage during the day? What I mean is why didn’t the union at some point crack down on this so that production companies and studios working on features and network TV shows at the very least would have a script reader as a standalone job that gets paid for the work?” That is Hilary’s fundamental question which is a great question. So we spent the last couple of days talking with friends and others to figure out, yeah, why is it this way?
Craig: Yeah. So first thing to be clear about, MPEG, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, is part of IATSE, which is the big blanket union that covers all of the – I guess you could call them trade craft unions, editors, and grips, and electricians, and DPs. Pretty much everybody except for actors, writers, and directors. And so they’re divided up into all these little locals. Now you have certain jobs that don’t quite deserve their own little local union like say script readers or story analysts, so they fold them into these other unions. They stick them in places. They’re not at all editors. Zero relation. And it’s a problem because what happens is they have no real influence in their own union.
Craig: So they are in a union. They have no real influence in it. The contract that they get, well, it’s only as strong as the enforcement. The enforcement of that contract would be an extension of the will of the Motion Picture Editors Guild. I can’t imagine editors going on strike to support story analysts. You see the problem? So this is at least one of the issues, the structural issues that the readers and analysts are facing.
John: So, let’s talk about payment, because this is sort of the crux of her argument and I think it’s very true and people should understand from the outside what this looks like. Beatrice wrote in to say that the rates differ absurdly by company, but in general you can find that like Paradigm will pay $50 per script, which is even less than I was making at Tristar 20 years ago.
Craig: Geez. God.
John: Disney pays $125 per script. $125 sounds pretty good, but I can tell you that it is multiple hours of work to get these things done. And sometimes you’re given a book to cover or something really massive. And there might be some bumps for larger projects, but $125 – it’s tough to make a living at $125 per script if you’re trying to do good coverage which you need to be doing good coverage or they’re not going to keep hiring you on to be writing coverage for them.
So, compare that to the folks who do actually have one of these union gigs, so for a union reader right now the rate card says for the first six months of employment as a reader you get $38.61 per hour which works out to $1,544 per week. For the next 12 months after that you get bumped up to $41 an hour. Then after 55 months you get $46.42 per hour. So, in that top tier you’re making $96,000 a year. That’s better. That’s certainly a livable wage. But you’ve been working for a long time as a professional doing this job to get to that highest point. I don’t want to sort of argue about whether these union readers should be paid more. I think what’s important to be focused on is that so many people doing this job are not union readers, are not making anywhere near the minimums that the folks who are union readers are making.
Craig: Yeah. So we’re not going to try and negotiate a new contract on behalf of the Motion Picture Editors Guild for their script readers and story analysts. One thing we can do at least is publicize when we do get information about how little a particular place spends on nonunion readers like Paradigm. So Paradigm, if this is true, if Paradigm pays $50 per script coverage then no one’s script is being well covered at Paradigm. That’s just not possible. It’s just not. You can’t have a wage like that which means basically people are just going to be covering a whole lot of scripts to get a reasonable amount of money. You get what you pay for generally in the world. So, FYI, Paradigm, boo.
John: Yeah. And I should say that’s assuming the $50 is for doing the kind of coverage that I’m talking about. If $50 is to write just like two paragraphs of comments on something, that may be a different conversation. But it is that synopsis that honestly kills you doing coverage.
Craig: Well, one solution generally to these kinds of problems is to try and organize people into the union. The Writers Guild works at this with varying degrees of success, but the notion is, OK, we found a place where there’s writers who are not working under a WGA contract. Let’s convince the company to get them under a WGA contract. But that simple solution doesn’t seem to be available.
Kevin writes in and he says, “I was a freelancer for many years getting paid piecemeal and cramming in as many scripts as possible,” meaning as a reader, “usually over the course of a Friday to Monday weekend read. Then Paramount acquired DreamWorks and suddenly our entire department was a union shop. To be precise, we occupy a niche of a niche within IATSE as a subdivision of MPEG Local 700. We are story analysts Local 700 S. Why are we attached to the editors? Your guess is as good as mine. And why are all the shops that should be union not necessarily union? Again, I can only throw up my hands.”
And get ready for this. “However, this simple solution of organizing people into the union doesn’t appear to be available in this case.”
We got an email from someone calling themselves Tip Tipster. I don’t think that’s their real name.
John: It would be great if it were though.
John: Like Tip O’Neil.
Craig: Well Tip Tipster, like the Tipster family is known for this, and so they–
John: Yeah, they’re drinkers, but otherwise lovely.
Craig: In an endless feud with the Whistleblowers next door. Tip Tipster writes, “There is a union for readers,” as we’ve discussed. “This union consists of about 80 to 90 readers. This union does what most unions seem to do. Get its members fair wages, benefits, etc. And they seem to do a good job of it. Here’s the kicker about this union. They won’t let in any new readers unless someone in the union retires. Why? Because they want to make sure every reader is working before letting in new members. On the surface I can see why this kind of makes sense, but I don’t know any other union that actually operates this way. WGA? No. Editors Guild? No. DGA, SAG? No. No. Those are all based on whether you have proven you have the craft for those guilds and have been hired by a company that can only hire from those guilds.
“Guilds like the WGA, SAG, etc. work because everyone with that craft who has proven their worth bands together and tells their would-be employers that if you want quality work you have to hire from these guilds and abide by these standards.”
If this is true, it is an enormous problem. The union in its desire to protect its base of union workers is probably participating in creating the very problem that they’re designed to solve.
John: Yeah. So we reached out to Holly Sklar, who is part of the MPEG and represents union readers, and so she gave us a lot of information about sort of what they’re doing and sort of how it all works. We’re also going to include a link to they have events where they sort of do talk about sort of union reader issues and reader issues in general.
But, yeah, it is a thing. So she gave us some background on sort of why it came to be this way. So here is what she says. “In the late 1930s/early 1940s story analysts at the major studios organized and were successful in unionizing story analyst jobs at those companies. In the ensuing years a few more large companies signed onto the union agreement. For example, Amblin Partners. Current signatories who are contract are Sony, MGM, Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount, Walt Disney, Universal, Focus, Amblin, CBS TV, and 20th Century Studios, which used to be Fox, which although part of Disney maintains its own story department. Though we had our own IATSE Local for many years, our branch of the IATSE has been part of Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, since 2000.
“We would love to have more companies become signatory and make the majority of story analyst jobs union jobs or for most companies who start employing story analysts to become signatory.”
So, she goes on to say that just like with assistants, nonunion freelance story analyst rates are stuck in the mid-90s. That’s when I was working as that. And freelancers are paid per piece. There’s no sick time. No guaranteed weekly hours. They’re typically juggling several clients at once.
So, yes, it’s a two-tiered messed up system and something needs to change. I think my instinct about sort of why it’s not changing on the union side is it’s what you said. The Editors Guild is not going to go on strike to get story analysts covered. And they’re having a hard time enforcing the rule that like this story analyst job has to be done only union story analysts because it’s just become habit for assistants and other people to be doing exactly that work. So that’s the challenge.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, look at the nature of the business where we have five, six, seven studios. We have multiple networks. We have multiple talent agencies. We have many multiple management companies. There is an enormous need for scripts to be read and covered by story readers and analysts. The amount of work that is required is so vastly more than the amount that 90 people could do. The union at that point understands inherently that they can’t control this work space, not with the amount of members they have.
So, it is a tricky part. One of the dangers of being in a union in 2020 America, which is not friendly to unions, certainly not in the way this country used to be friendly to unions back in the days, is that if you expand you continue to find new beach heads where the worker’s situation is more perilous and they have less leverage. And in those situations you are constantly lowering the floor for all members.
On the other hand if you try and preserve what you have on small islands, that’s what you end up with. Islands. And the islands will shrink, and shrink, and shrink until they’re gone.
John: So here’s one path forward. I would say this next year will be really interesting to see what happens because these readers who are not fulltime employees, there’s assistants who do reading for companies and I’m not really talking about them, but there’s also folks like I was who I was just an independent contractor. I was just a guy who was being paid per-piece, per-thing I was reading and being paid as an independent contractor.
Well in California AB5 which is this new law that went into effect that is really designed to sort of take a look at Uber and Lyft drivers and how they’re paid and really treating them like employees, well, that could arguably be applied to these freelance readers who are really working like employees at the companies but are not being treated as employees. And so it will be interesting to see whether in seeing AB5 being implemented more of these companies start saying like, oh, you know what, we really can’t legally be outsourcing this job. We need to take it in house. If they do take more of those reader jobs in house then that’s an opportunity to organize those readers.
So, it’s a tension there, too, because they don’t want those readers to organize, but that is a thing that’s going to be helpful.
Craig: What we can do, you and I, and everybody together in the meantime is a little bit like what we did with the assistants. Because the assistants aren’t in a union at all. Basically what we can say is let’s start talking to readers, particularly readers who believe they’re not being treated fairly. We’d like to hear from you. And we would like to hear how much you’re being paid. And if there are abuses. And we want to know who is behaving well and who is behaving poorly. And we start to use our small modest instrument of shame to ask businesses in this allegedly progressive community to treat working people fairly.
John: Yeah. That’s all we do is nudge. We gather and then we nudge.
Craig: Gather and nudge.
John: Yep. So if you are a reader working at a company, so if you’re an assistant who reads and does coverage, sure, write in about that. And if it’s just part of your normal job and you’re not being paid extra for it, sure, tell us about that. But if you are a person who makes your living as a reader either fulltime, part-time, or it is a big thing that you do, we’re curious how much you’re getting paid and sort of what your conditions are like. If there’s ways we can sort of organize this data just to sort of see the range of what pay is like. That could be useful if nothing else so that the next time you are going out for a job you can say like, “You know what? I’m not going to take this as a minimum. It has to be this rate because this is what I’m worth.” That could be helpful.
Craig: Yeah. And if you’re doing a good job and people keep coming back to you over and over, start to see if you can’t move that ball forward. The more we can get general rates up, well, rising tide and all that. But, listen, easier said than done. We’re also aware that a lot of these companies can easily point to truthfully a file of resumes of people that are begging for these jobs, because that’s the nature of the business we’re in. And then it’s incumbent upon us to point out that if you just give those jobs to any of those people in that folder, well, that’s not going to work well for you because the nightmare – I like talking about nightmares – the nightmare of the boss of the assistant is that the disgruntled assistant just, you know, spills all your stuff out there into the world.
The nightmare of the boss who is employing readers and analysts is that they’re going to get some coverage that says this script stank, I hate it, don’t both, and they’ll go, “Great, one less thing for me to do on a weekend.” And then a week later it sells for $5 million and Brad Pitt is attached and Rian Johnson is directing it. And their boss is calling saying, “What? Why weren’t we in on that?”
“Well, you see, I saved $70.” Good luck. That’s the nightmare. So we have to recognize that there actually is value, great value, in what these people are doing. And we have to leverage our collective shaming and nudging so that they are treated better.
John: Exactly. All right. So write in with that stuff, and also in the show notes I’ll put a link to what Holly Sklar sent in in terms of what the MPEG Local actually does and an article about sort of the early history of story analysts, because if you think about it it is just a job we had to invent. Because there’s not really – I guess there probably was some kind of Broadway equivalent, but we just had to industrialize this job in a way that would never have existed before. And so the early history of it is I think interesting as well.
John: Cool. Let’s answer one listener question.
John: Monica wrote in to ask, “Hi John and Craig. I’m happy to say that my very first If-Come deal is in the works for a pilot I wrote.” I’m going to stop here and define what an If-Come deal is.
If-Come deal means that the studio/producer has agreed to pay you to write this thing if they can find a distributor for it. So if they can sell it to a network, sell it to a place that will actually put it on the air or put it on streams. So it’s a very classic situation. I’m in an if-come deal on a project right now. So, if-come means that we will pay you if we can find a home for it.
Craig: Yeah. I never understood, this is my whole thing about pay-or-play. It should be pay-and-play. You know, I’ve never understood that phrase pay-or-play. It implies an option where specifically the point is there isn’t one. And if-come is strange. What’s the come about?
John: I don’t know. We can probably Google it, but we’re going to revel in our ignorance.
Craig: Already I’m like someone is just taking the line of me saying, “What’s the come about,” and it’s going to be an outro. So, yeah. You know what? Do it.
John: James Launch, Jim Bond, do it. Monica continues, “My agent, a WGA code of conduct signatory, noticed a provision in the deal that he didn’t like and I’d like to ask you about it. Under the lock provision I will be locked for two years only if I get sole credit on the pilot. With shared credit I am not locked at all. My agent is wary of this for fear of me not being able to work as a writer on my own show should it ever come to exist. Now I’m trying to decide if I want to continue with this deal with the possibility of being bumped off my own show should it get made if I am rewritten and not wanted by a hypothetical future studio. Or, I could not take the deal and hope to find another production company to work with.
“My question to you is how common is this provision and is this something I should be worried about?”
Monica, so I don’t think you should be especially worried. I think it’s good that your agent is pointing this out and making it clear to you this is a thing that could happen. Is there a chance you could get rewritten? Yeah. Is there a chance that some person could come in and take stuff over and do stuff that’s going to be unhappy? Yeah. But I don’t think that necessarily this provision is as unusual as your agent may be presenting it as. I think it’s kind of a reasonable thing that a studio could be putting in here because they don’t know if you can actually run a show or navigate this process of getting the show from idea to pilot to a show on the air.
So, I’m not as worried about this as your agent is. Craig, how are you feeling about what she’s written in?
Craig: Well, I’m with you. I understand why the agent is worried. There are frequent situations where networks will agree to bring on a pilot for development because they love the idea and maybe they think it’s going to appeal to a particular actor that they want to be in business with. But they will routinely pair inexperienced showrunners with experienced showrunners. And the question then is, well, as you put it the fear of me not being able to work as a writer on my own show. Yeah, that does happen. So with shared credit you’re not locked at all. That’s because their presumption is if you’re sharing credit then the other person did enough where it’s really about the other person.
So, the only thing I think you can do is maybe try and build in a little bit of a penalty where you’re saying, OK, I understand. Shared credit, not locked, but if I’m not locked and I get shared credit you do have to pay me blankety-blank as a little penalty fee for me not being locked in.
You can always try and get something like that. Do I think you should hold out and see if you can find somebody else that would just lock you in? I don’t think that. Because by and large if it’s your very first deal, and it is in this case–
John: That’s what you’re saying.
Craig: You’re going to hear a lot of this. I don’t think you’re going to get too many people saying, “Yeah, we’re all in on you, even though you’ve never done this before.”
John: Yeah. My advice is take the win. Do everything you can to stay on that show and to be able to deliver the thing that they desperately want to make. It’s going to be hard, hard work and you’re going to be just pulling your hair out at times because TV process is maddening. But try to stay on that show. And if someone comes in to work with you or to rewrite you, accept that that’s a thing that may also happen. If at some point you don’t get sole credit and it really looks like they are trying to push you off the show, that could happen. And if that does happen, accept the loss of that. But don’t go overboard pre-coping with that situation.
John: Really focus on just making the most awesome show and then setting up the next show and the next show. Because having set up this first deal you have some momentum. Work on the next thing. Work on the next thing. Get stuff going.
Craig: Yep. I completely agree.
John: Cool. All right. It’s time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is a listener wrote in with a really great blog post here. Anna Marie Cruz wrote Ten Things Secret Hitler Taught Me About Being a Liberal Post-11/9. So it’s really sort of what she took from the game Secret Hitler, which is a really terrific game that I helped do the Kickstarter for, and in playing the game you play either the liberals or the Nazis. But there’s secret information and there’s stuff that happens. I really enjoy the game. It is kind of a friendship ruiner. I wouldn’t necessarily play it with people you necessarily want to stay close with.
But the lessons she took from it I think are actually really helpful in this moment that we’re living in right now which is that the liberals have to really act together and be sort of generous in their assumptions with each other or else the fascists win. It’s just what sort of happens in that game inevitably. And she has really good observations along the way about the importance of truth-telling and the importance of sort of really accepting what is rather than what you wish could be. So, I’d just point you to this blog post.
Craig: Well I don’t know if this is that timely. I mean, the notion of people on the left attacking each other. [laughs] What’s the relevance, man?
John: I mean, it’s just out there in a general sense.
Craig: Got it.
John: This could be this year, next year, ten years ago. Really it’s all the same. There’s nothing special about this moment that we’re in right now where the left is at an agitated state. Nothing like that at all.
Craig: My sweet lord. Well, that’s brilliant. I’ve actually never played Secret Hitler. Is it like Mafia or–?
John: It’s like Mafia or Werewolf, but here’s the innovations that Max Temkin the creator was able to bring to it was that it’s the same people who do Cards Against Humanity. What they were able to do is build these mechanics where you have to pass these laws. And sometimes passing these laws will help you get information who were actually the Nazis, but in doing so you actually kind of give them some power, too. And so the Nazis have more information than you have. So it’s very cleverly set up and balanced. But because you’re lying all the time you run into a lot of Amanda Peet situations where – sorry, that’s a very specific reference to playing Werewolf with Amanda Peet. Was it Mafia we played with them?
Craig: Yeah, Mafia.
John: Yeah. When you have talented actors lying it can be stressful.
Craig: I normally play Mafia with actors. Like I’ll play Mafia with Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall. It’s hard. It’s hard.
John: It’s hard.
Craig: They’re good actors.
John: Well, Craig, you are also – people who may not know this – you are a very, very good leader of Mafia. You’re a very good game master of Mafia. I know your aspiration is to quit the industry and just play D&D. But, as a side gig you could be a Mafia leader.
Craig: I do enjoy it. It’s fun. Melanie Lynskey, also–
John: Oh, so good. I’m sure.
Craig: Because she’s so sweet, you don’t realize. You just don’t realize. It is fun – partly I think being a DM does help you run a Mafia game because you realize part of your job is to actually be entertaining and not just shepherd people through this process, but try and keep it light so that people don’t tear their throats out.
Anyway, this sounds great. I’m going to totally play this.
John: I have one. So at some point we’ll have you over and we’ll get together a group of friends and it will get really contentious.
Craig: Brilliant. I love that. Can’t do it with Melissa. Can’t.
John: And Mike will never play it again. So it’ll have to be other folks.
Craig: Perfect. There you go. This game, of course, the major investors were divorce lawyers.
My One Cool Thing is a new game for all of your mobile platforms. There’s an outfit called Glitch Games. I love a good escape game, a little point and click puzzler. But Glitch Games, they have really good ones. And they have a new one out called Veritas. I haven’t finished it yet. I think I’m only on chapter two. But it’s as well done as all of theirs. The artwork is kind of gorgeous and the puzzles are very clever. And it’s a fun time.
So if you’re like me and you like those sorts of things check out Veritas. It is available on, oh, the app store for your regular computer or, you know, your mobile, or Google Play, or Steam.
John: All of them.
Craig: Or whatever the hell Itch IO is.
John: Yeah, Itch-IO.
Craig: Itch-IO. It’s available on Amazon apps. I didn’t even know they had these things.
John: If you are a Premium member stick around because Craig and I will talk about baldness, but otherwise that’s the end of our show. Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by James Launch and Jim Bond. If you have an outro you can send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. For short questions on Twitter, Craig is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s also where you’ll find links to some of the things we talked about on the show today. We have transcripts on the site, they go up within the week of the episode airing.
You can sign up to become a Premium member at Scriptnotes.net where you get all the back episodes and bonus segments. Craig, thanks for a fun show.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: Craig, all right, so just before we started recording we decided that baldness would be our topic because you and I are experts on many things, but we are also experts on losing hair.
Craig: Yeah. You know what? People don’t talk about it enough.
John: Yeah, let’s talk about it more. When did you start losing your hair?
Craig: I think probably my best guess is college at some point. I think I was in the rain, New Jersey, what a shock, it was raining. And it was like when my hair got wet suddenly it was like, oh, there’s less of it. It was like one of the first times I think I noticed. So I was about, let’s call it 19.
John: I was a little younger. I was probably 16, 17. So I was in high school and I was in my French class. And Thuy Westlake, this gorgeous woman who was a year older than me, she was like coming back from – she had just taken her French class up to the front and was coming back to sit in her seat. So she was standing over me and she’s like, “You’re losing your hair.” And she sat down in her seat.
John: And I’m like, what? What?
Craig: Thuy? Her name was Thuy?
John: Yeah. Thuy.
Craig: Thuy, they don’t know, do they?
John: But she spoke the truth. She spoke absolute truth.
Craig: True, but it was just a little harsh.
John: It was a little harsh. And so I got a little bit nervous about that right from that moment on. Where I realized like, oh yeah, you know what? This is true. And then through college I just lost more and more of it. So, when did you come to terms with it? When was the first moment you realized like, oh, yeah, I’m not going to have hair on the top of my head at a certain point?
Craig: I don’t know. I just sort of – I remember I was probably 30. And my doctor, I had a physical and my doctor said do you want anything for your hair. Because they have, you know, whatever – Rogaine. Rogaine and the other stuff.
John: Rogaine is a Minoxidil, I guess is the actual name of the drug.
John: And then there’s Propecia which is a pill.
Craig: Propecia, right. So, I said, um, no. [laughs] I just thought to myself, no, I actually don’t think hair is super-duper important to me. You know?
John: And at this point you had already been married for years?
Craig: Yeah. I’d been married for about five years.
John: So I was losing my hair much more rapidly in my early 20s. And it was much more in the baseball hat kind of mode. And I was cutting my hair shorter at times, but I was still cutting my hair. And at a certain point, the second year of grad school, I was like you know what, screw it, I’m just going to buzz it all off.
And so I was at my friend Ashley’s house. She was having sort of a white trash party to watch the Miss America pageant and eat fried foods. So I had my friend Tom use his little shaver and shaved my head. And it was just so jarring that next week. If I saw my reflection in the mirror I would be startled because I would not recognize myself just to see the shaved bald head. But it was the right choice. Wow, it was the right choice because it’s just been good to not have to worry about not having hair in the moments since then.
Craig: Yea. I’ve never done the full shave down. I still get a haircut because I have plenty of hair on the sides and the back. Because I don’t know, mostly I think Melissa was like, “Nah, I don’t want that.” So, OK, you got it. You got it, kiddo. And I get a beard trim. But shampooing is – like my hair, I’ll shampoo the back and the sides and stuff. But when you get out of the shower I basically rub the towel on my head like, whoop, and I’m done.
Craig: That’s it. It’s dry. Yay.
John: It’s dry. So I had tried Minoxidil and it did nothing for me, or Rogaine. I didn’t notice it. And it was expensive at the time and I was broke. But my doctor did put me on Propecia, which so the pros and cons of Propecia. People say it sort of like locks in the hair you have. And it’s sort of been my experience. So I still have the same amount of hair that I had when I was 25. So, I still take it because my doctor said don’t stop taking it because it’s actually good for you kind of overall. So I’m like, fine, it’s cheap.
But so I still have the peach fuzz. And so I have to sort of – Mike my husband buzzes the peach fuzz, what I have left of my hair on my head, every seven to ten days. And it’s fine.
So, I think I was much more worried about losing my hair than actually once I had shaved my head kind of concerned about it. It was such a relief to have one less thing to think about.
Craig: Well, look, when you lose your hair as a man, and typically we do lose it – I mean, you lost it probably on the earliest side of losing. Well, I do remember there was a kid in school, I think he was 15 maybe, and he was like already pretty much like comb-over kind of territory. And so it’s traumatic to an extent because you know you’re supposed to look a certain way and you’re supposed to attract certain people. And you’re generally told that like, oh, bald guys, blech. You know, it’s hard.
And you don’t realize that actually a lot of people don’t care, or find it just as attractive, or more so. It’s kind of a masculine sort of vibe, which is nice. But it does impact a lot of people. And you know there’s a lot of psychological trauma around it because there’s a multibillion dollar industry that’s there to fix it one way or another.
John: It’s important to note that, yes, it’s considered OK for men to be bald. So like Jean-Luc Picard, even in the future, is bald. But when women don’t have hair it is notable. And so Ayanna Pressley a few weeks ago a few weeks ago posted she had alopecia and suddenly lost all of her hair. And here’s a congressional representative who had really fantastic hair and she was sort of known for her hair and suddenly going bald and sort of talking about how traumatic it was to go through that.
But then you just sort of – you kind of find power in claiming your identity that way.
Craig: Although there are better wig options. I mean, wigs work better for men than toupees work for men in general because wigs are long, or they can be long, or they can frame the face in a certain way. So, generally speaking like the general world of what we would call a feminine hairstyle it’s more wigable. The short kind of male hairstyle just tends to look like hair hat.
John: Now, Craig, if there were a simple treatment that would give you full normal hair again, would you have full normal hair?
Craig: Without any kind of like crazy–?
John: No side effect.
Craig: I think I would. And the only reason I say that is just because as time goes on the sun – there are two problems. It’s the sun and then heaters in restaurants.
Craig: Two things that kill me.
John: People don’t talk enough about that. Yes.
Craig: So the sun is beating down directly on you when it is at its brightest and hottest. And when you don’t have hair, well, you feel it. You feel lit. And it will fry your scalp. So that’s a bummer. And then restaurants when they put the heaters on I have to do my best to get as far away from them as possible.
John: Yeah, because it burns.
Craig: It burns. Your scalp starts to burn. So, for those two reasons I guess I would say yeah. What about you?
John: I would do it just because I’m really curious what it would be like to have hair again. Because sometimes in dreams I will have hair and it’s exciting to actually be able to do stuff with hair and move stuff around. I’m sure I would find it annoying to actually have to think about it and have to brush it and comb it and wash it and do all that stuff, which I don’t have to do right now.
One perk I will say. Having been shaved, my head, this level for 20 years is that it’s harder for people to peg my age because of it because I sort of kind of look the same all this time. Like if you look back at photos from me 20 years ago or 10 years ago I don’t look vastly different, which is kind of nice.
John: And so sometimes people meeting me think I’m younger than I am because I have fewer visible age markers because I don’t have grey hair. I don’t have other things to look for.
Craig: Exactly. So, my hair-hair that I do have on my head isn’t really, I don’t think it’s salt-and-peppering much at all. But any man’s beard–
John: Your beard.
Craig: So it’s like a classic thing. Once you kind of hit 40 your beard will get a very specific graying pattern. Every guy has it. That’s roughly our age. So it is a great indicator of age. So, yeah, you know, I mean, I guess mostly just for practical reasons. There’s no vanity attached to it at all.
By the way, maybe partly the reason I had no vanity attached to my hair is because I never had good hair.
John: Yeah, I never had good hair.
Craig: Like my hair was always destined to go away. Like it didn’t want to be there.
John: I had really thin hair. Like the actual quality of my hair itself was sort of thin and wispy and never great.
Craig: Oh yeah. I mean, the fact is having grown up with hair and then having lost my hair, I’m pretty good. Like if I see kids, even kids, but very like, maybe a freshman in high school, I know. I’m like, OK, you’re not going to have your hair. You’re not going to have your hair. I can just see it. You just know. It’s a certain kind of hair.
John: It’s all right.
Craig: It’s all right, man. It’s cool.
John: It’s all right.
Craig: It’s all right. Yeah.
John: Craig, thanks.
Craig: Thank you, John.
- Craig to write ‘The Last of Us’ series
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- John’s coverage for Natural Born Killers and Sex in the Nineties
- How Story Analysts from Hollywood’s Golden Age Helped Build Movies, and a Lasting Labor Movement by Holly Sklar
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